Madam Speaker, as I rise today to debate Bill C-46 at second reading, I am thinking of the people in my riding who have lost loved ones to impaired driving, as well as those who have been injured and whose lives will never be the same.
Sometimes when debating legislation in the House, we can lose sight of the real human impacts of our decisions. Impaired driving has done a lot of damage in a lot of communities. We are lucky if we do not know someone who has lost a loved one as a result of impaired driving. By making our laws in this area more effective, we can do a lot of good.
Let us talk about the bill. Bill C-46 would provide a new way forward to address impaired driving and would get drivers impaired by alcohol or drugs off our roads. That is something, fundamentally, we can all agree on in this House.
Impaired driving has been an issue for a long time. We know that drug-impaired driving has become a growing problem over the past decade. It is not any specific age group causing the problem. Indeed, this is one of those issues that transcends age, gender, and socio-economic status. What we need are wholesale behavioural changes backed by comprehensive, evidence-based policy and regulation and further public education.
I am proud to stand with a government that is taking action to tackle this issue in an informed and forceful way, as reflected in this bill. I am very proud to know that Bill C-46 is a product of a great deal of legwork by many departments, including the departments of justice, health, and public safety. The Task force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation has been central to these latest efforts through their engagement with law enforcement and many other partners across the country.
Indeed, I extend my heartfelt thanks to the dedicated women and men on the front lines dealing with the tragedy of impaired driving every day, including the roughly 4,000 officers trained to perform the standardized field sobriety test.
However, we know that more needs to be done. There is a vacuum to be filled, especially in terms of creating drug-impaired driving limits, the tools to detect these violations, and the legal teeth to clamp down on offenders. That is why the Government of Canada began by requesting that the Drugs and Driving Committee of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science assess the validity of oral fluid drug screening technology.
They agreed that the technology reliably detects THC, cocaine, and methamphetamines, these being the drugs most frequently abused by Canadians. However, this is only one piece of the puzzle. The technological tools needed to detect impairing substances must be accompanied by a legal framework that provides for their effective use. That is one important way this bill would create a stronger impaired driving regime. It would authorize law enforcement, at legal roadside stops, to require that a driver provide an oral fluid sample if the officer had a reasonable suspicion that a driver had drugs in his or her body. That could mean redness in the eyes or an odour in the vehicle, for example. The screener, which has a disposable oral fluid collection kit and a reader that analyzes the saliva, would then help the officer check for the presence of particular drugs in the oral fluid.
A positive reading on one of these devices would be information an officer could use to develop reasonable grounds to believe that an offence had been committed. At that point, the driver could be required to either provide a blood sample or to submit to a drug recognition evaluation by an officer to determine whether a criminal offence had been committed.
The bill would create three new criminal offences. It would allow law enforcement to charge those who had a prohibited level of drugs in their blood within two hours of driving. This would be proven by the blood sample. Drivers could also be charged if they had a prohibited level of drugs and alcohol in combination. Importantly, this bill would allow for mandatory alcohol screening. That means officers would be able to require a preliminary breath sample from any driver they stopped in accordance with the law.
Evidence tells us that this is an important tool for detecting impaired drivers and for reducing the rate of impaired driving. This has been demonstrated by studies in other jurisdictions where the system is in place, such as Australia, New Zealand, and several countries in Europe.
Most of the proposed new offences would be punishable by penalties that mirror the existing penalties for alcohol-impaired driving: $1,000 for the first offence; 30 days in prison for the second offence; and 120 days for a third or subsequent offence.
Much will be made in comparing this tough new legislation with our international counterparts. The United Kingdom, for example, introduced legislation last year that created legal limits for drugs and authorized screeners that detect THC and other drugs, which has resulted in more effective enforcement. Other countries, including Australia, France, Germany, and many more, have similar legislation in place and have also found it effective in preventing drug-impaired driving.
For Canada, the other piece of the puzzle will be making sure that misinformation and misperceptions are addressed. We absolutely must educate the public in a comprehensive way. Public Safety Canada has already launched an effective social media campaign to encourage sober driving and to amplify messages from partners, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which does phenomenal work.
To complement this new legislation, a comprehensive public awareness campaign is under development to inform Canadian youth and parents of youth about the risks associated with drug-impaired driving. I am confident that the government will use this opportunity to address misconceptions, correct misinformation, and promote prevention.
This is about safer roads for our communities from coast to coast to coast. Getting impaired drivers off our roads is the number one priority of all parliamentarians. It is encouraging to see the positive response to this legislation thus far and the willingness of so many partners to act together on this crucial issue.
As I said at the outset, real lives have been turned upside down by impaired driving, and of course, real lives have been tragically ended by it. We need to make it stop.
I thank my hon. colleagues for their attention. I look forward to seeing the common-sense provisions in this bill applied on our roads for the benefit of all Canadians.